“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” Paul informs us in Romans 3:23. To commit sin is to willfully disobey God’s commandments or to fail to act righteously despite a knowledge of the truth. Many in the world do not believe in sin or in repentance from sin. In fact, some do not even believe in God.
The central theme of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is that He is our Savior and Redeemer and that through His atonement, we can obtain forgiveness of our sins. These phrases don’t mean much to those who don’t believe in God or Christ, but they fill with hope those who understand and accept that there is sin in this world.
A Savior is one who delivers from a predicament or an unavoidable trap. Paul also taught us in Romans 6:23 that, “The wages of sin are death.” Sometimes those who are young reject the idea of spiritual death because physical death seems so far away. With maturity, they are more inclined to believe and to want to learn.
The household of faith
Those who are born and raised in a home of faith, where the good news of the gospel is believed and taught, have so much the advantage over those who have neither heard of Christ nor understood the role of repentance in their lives. I had that advantage and will be forever grateful to a mother who taught me to believe.
However, being taught the gospel as a youth places an added responsibility on us. That burden is that we have at least an intellectual understanding of the principles of the gospel. Whether we believe them or not is a different story. It is difficult to pass faith from one generation to the next. The secret is example and pure love.
And yet, children have their agency and can choose to believe or not believe. If the acceptance of the world around them is stronger than the acceptance of their own family, it makes it difficult to choose to believe. Peer influence in a young person’s life can be so much more powerful than the teachings of a loving parent.
Born in the covenant
Life sometimes has a way of leading a rebellious youth to the realization that the path of faith is real, even if it is difficult and not the way of the world. It can be a harsh awakening for a child born in the covenant to understand that they can never be the same as the world around them. Their promises and expectations are great.
Because they have been born in the covenant, their parents have a special claim on them, no matter what their level of belief or obedience. That phrase has a unique meaning in our church and carries with it an understanding of promises, made both by God and by the parents. The children born to such a marriage inherit promises.
Sometimes children born in the covenant reject the faith of their parents and decide to live after the manner of the world – in a state of unbelief. True faith, as found in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, is a powerful thing but is foreign to those who do not believe. Faith is different from belief. You can’t have faith without belief.
Invited to believe and be faithful
There comes a time in every person’s life when they must choose to believe or to not believe in God and His ways. I can say that because we are clearly taught that such a choice is the primary purpose of this life. That choice is presented over and over again until it is clearly established that such faith will be accepted or rejected.
In fact, the role of the Holy Ghost in this life is to entice us throughout our journey to a path of faithfulness. The parents of the rebellious teenager or young adult who has been given the Gift of the Holy Ghost, can constantly ask the Lord to help the child recognize the enticing of the spirit in their lives. That is part of the promise.
I am convinced that as long as the parents pray for that child and ask the Lord to soften the child’s heart towards the gospel of Jesus Christ, that the Lord is bound to honor that request because of the promises inherent in being born in the covenant. He will send the Spirit to prick the heart of that child at the request of the parents.
The Savior will receive and forgive
I have seen numerous examples of rebellious children returning to the faith of their parents many times over the years. Sometimes it is dramatic and shocking to see the difference in the child as the light of the gospel begins to shine in their face. They go on missions, marry in the temple and begin to raise their own families.
But it does not always work like that. Sometimes too much time has passed. A mission is out of the question. That’s OK. They can serve later in life. Many do. Sometimes a marriage in the temple is not forthcoming because of an unbelieving spouse or divorce has already visited the young family, leaving a single parent.
But in spite of poor choices early in life, the Lord is eager to forgive and to bless. He holds out his arms to the wayward child, just as the parents have done for so many years. But the Savior offers something that the parents can never provide – healing and peace. He also offers hope of deliverance from the despair of sin.
Summary and conclusion
We all need our Savior. None of us can save ourselves from the effects of our sins. We cannot wash ourselves free of the contamination of wickedness. Only the Lord Jesus Christ can do that for us. He offers that gift freely, to young and old, parents and children. He offers to redeem us from death and hell and an endless torment.
Members of the LDS faith have an additional understanding of what it means to be saved from death, hell and endless torment. We have additional scripture, as found in the Book of Mormon that teaches us plainly of the significance of redemption. We find great hope in what we learn there about our Savior and His love for us.
Our hope is in Jesus Christ. We proclaim Him to the world to be our Savior and Redeemer and the Son of God. We know Him. We love Him. We worship Him. We preach of Christ and teach our children to believe in Him. I will be forever grateful to a loving Heavenly Father who reveals His Son to those who obey Him.
Image: The Prodigal Son, Artist: Clark Kelley Price